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After my spectacular hike up to the Harding Ice Field in Kenai Fjords National Park, I wanted to do more than just look down onto the complex world of glacial ice from high above. Through a friend from Northland College, I discovered that Adventure 60 North, a guide service in Seward, runs sea kayak trips to the toe of a calving glacier. Read more

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Bright sun poked through scattered clouds as I boarded a bus at the Denali Park Depot. Ever since my graduate advisor and then a classmate told me about the amazing experiences they’d had at Camp Denali, I’d been looking forward to visiting. And now it was about to happen.

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“Welcome to Alaska (soon)!” wrote Kat O’Brien in response to a post I made on the listserv for the Ecological Society of America. In preparation for my sabbatical in Alaska, I was reaching out to scientists who might be willing to let me tag along on their research or visit their labs so I c…

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Many hands helped push, pull, and stabilize the hollow metal pipe and its plunger until a cylinder of mud extruded from the far end like a gritty line of decorative frosting. A slick coating of soupy mud had spewed out of the equipment as we lifted it from the water and now obscured the oute…

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Dr. Katie Spellman’s left eyebrow arched into an exclamation point above the wide frames of her glasses. “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.” The room full of educators and youth leaders from rural and indigenous communities around Alaska and the Lower 48 chuckled in agre…

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Frost sparkled on the picnic tables at the Alaska Geographic Field Camp in Denali National Park and the thermometer still read 30 degrees Fahrenheit even though the sun had risen four hours earlier at about 3 a.m. In pairs and trios, ten women bundled in puffy coats and winter hats emerged f…

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An eagle was soaring over the ocean as I pulled into the parking area at Eagle Beach north of Juneau, Alaska. After grabbing my camera and notebook I hurried over to the white-haired man dressed in a naturalist’s uniform of fleece jacket, hiking pants, and a big backpack with tripod hanging …

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The Tongass Highway wound north out of the remote town of Ketchikan, Alaska. To my left, rocky beaches and protected coves showed themselves through a light mist. To my right, densely forested hills climbed out of sight into the fog. Just before the northern terminus of the Tongass Highway, …

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A small stream tumbled and crashed through edge of Bellingham, WA. The rocky ravine it had carved over time now provides refuge for big trees, a fish hatchery, a cacophony of birds, and humans, too. Well-worn dirt paths gave testament to the popularity of this waterfall-filled neighborhood g…

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I took the scenic route along the coast from Anacortes, Washington, up to my friends’ house in Bellingham. Even though I’d just returned to the mainland from a couple days on Orcas Island, every glimpse of ocean through the trees was thrilling. With so many deep green islands dotting the spa…

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My hike on the Centennial Trail in Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota had been wonderful. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder as I strolled over the rolling prairie hills, dodged buffalo chips on the trail, and photographed wildflowers taking advantage of spring. Thankfully, the ho…

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The sun was hot as I sat on a bench outside the Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitor Center to put on my hiking boots. Entering the woods, though, the cool shade enveloped me. The air was sweet and buzzing with life. After a few deep breaths to enjoy the welcome change in the microclimate…

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Bliss. It was warm enough to wear shorts, but the mosquitoes hadn't hatched yet, and the spring ephemerals were blooming. Days like that are rare in the Northwoods. So I kidnapped Mollie, the Cable Natural History Museum's new curator, to show her Juniper Rock overlook on the North Country Trail.

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Warm days in early spring are just delicious. In the Northwoods, it is a rare delight to walk slowly through the warm woods. Fall and winter require a certain amount of movement to keep fingers and toes warm and summer hikes are often chased by mosquitoes. There is one brief period, though—a…

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A warm spring morning and a bluebird sky lured me outside. Camera in hand, I wandered the neighborhoods of Duluth, admiring the frilly clusters of blossoms on the silver maple trees. I stopped under one tree that seemed to have all male flowers. Tiny bouquets of eager stamens erupted out of …

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It’s been a long, snowy winter, but when a rainbow of bees invaded the Museum yesterday it started to feel a little bit like spring! The bees aren’t living of course; they are larger-than-life photographs that make our exhibit hall feel alive. We owe big thanks to Sam Droege at the USGS Nati…

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Getting over the ridge of icy snow left by the plow was my first challenge. I watched a couple of my companions try it, then picked my line and sidestepped up. The ridge only came up to my shoulder, but I still got a thrill out of choosing my own way to enter the woods instead of sticking to…

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Ever since my first trip to the Boundary Waters when I was 16, I’ve been aiming north. I grew up in the hills of Northeast Iowa, and spent my childhood envisioning cornfields as the prairies of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But as we drove up the Gunflint Trail and paddled deep into the Wilderness, …

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Snowshoes crunched loudly on the hard crust as we made our way toward a cluster flagged trees. After inspecting the furrowed bark of a large northern red oak, Paul Cigan, a forest health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, pulled out his hatchet and started slicing…

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A good naturalist always has a variety of useful things tucked away in their back pocket or in their bag of tricks. For me, this often this takes the shape of a piece of scrap paper, folded into eighths, with a list of facts or an outline of my hopeful lesson plan for the day (“hopeful” beca…

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Three times a year I get to spend a few days at the elementary school in Drummond, Wisconsin, teaching kids my favorite nature facts using my favorite nature props. Once each season, in Fall, Winter, and Spring, I load seven plastic tubs filled with skulls, furs, graduated cylinders, strips …

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This winter I think I’ve skied more kilometers than ever before. A combination of consistent snow conditions and high motivation levels for doing my best in the American Birkebeiner ski race led me out on the trail more often and for longer distances than usual.

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Curtains of snow sifted down from the laden trees as we entered the forest. The wizened branches of the Grandmother Tree, an old white pine, etched black and white silhouettes against the low, gray sky. Smooth new drifts stretched out in front of our little group of children and adults on th…

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Awooooo! My best impression of a wolf howl rose over the crunching of snowshoes and little voices. Gesturing to the group of third graders from the Hayward Intermediate School, I invited them to howl back. The choir that responded sounded nothing like wolves, but it was music to my ears none…

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This time of year, most of the nature I observe is along the cross-country ski trails in northwestern Wisconsin. Just a few days ago, I skied over a string of fresh red fox tracks. Occasionally a strong skunky odor accompanied them, and I looked a little closer to see which unfortunate pine …